One of the most common claims I hear when asking Jordanians about elections is: “We are a tribal society, and tribalism will always dominate the elections,” notes Kristen Kao, a postdoctoral research fellow with the program on governance and local development at the University of Gothenburg, in Sweden. And in truth, since their reintroduction in 1989, the same tribes have consistently dominated these elections. But for the election held just two weeks ago, the electoral rules underwent a fresh round of reforms in an attempt to encourage political parties, she writes for The Washington Post’s Monkey Cage:
The regime finally did away with the highly unpopular “one man, one vote” (al sawt al-wahid) or single nontransferable vote (SNTV) system. This divisive system was blamed for favoring wealthy business executives or strong tribal candidates elected with narrow support coalitions, who could purchase votes either outright with cash or through promises of personal services once elected. Under this system, strong political parties and cohesive legislative blocs were almost completely absent from the parliament
The new system is based on an open-list proportional representation (PR) system. There were some positive results that emerged from this new system, including the creation of diverse coalitions. The 45 districts from 2013 were amalgamated into just 23 larger districts. “The bigger districts encourage candidates to cater to a larger and more diverse groups of voters,” Amer Bani Amer, director of the Hayat Center for Civil Society Development, said in an interview this month.
The historical image of Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood has changed as it had been considered a firewall protecting against the danger of extremism, analyst Hassan Abu Haniya writes for Middle East Monitor.
“Despite the fact that the group suffers from a number of issues, it is still the cement in the Arab Muslim communities that keeps the state connected to the community in light of the lack and weakness of civil society institutions,” he contends. “Fragmenting the group and excluding it will allow for the emergence of angry and violent identity groups that will be difficult to control.”
Engaging Jordan’s youth is also a vital component of a strategy to counter violent extremism, writes Mark Green, head of the International Republican Institute, a core institute of the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance NGO.
After having spent more than two years conducting fieldwork in Jordan on parliamentary politics, I see three major challenges Jordan must address before elections can ever be expected to produce a party-based parliament, Kao adds:
- First, the electoral system needs stability — or at least a guarantee that any subsequent changes to the electoral law will be announced years before the next elections.
- Second, Jordan needs a clear path for the creation of legislation at the hands of the parliamentarians themselves.
- Third, a civil-education campaign for all levels of society needs to explain why political parties are important and how the voting system works.